Republican primary, state House District 59

• Rep. Jon Hardister (incumbent, three terms). Education: Greensboro College, political science degree. Occupation: Vice president for marketing of family owned First Carolina Mortgage. Career highlights: House Majority Whip, named legislator of the year by various organizations, board member of numerous civic and college organizations, chairman or vice chairman of legislative committees: Alcohol Beverage Control; Appropriations; Appropriations, Capital; Banking; Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Capital Improvements.

• Mark McDaniel, retired business manager of Southeastern Eye Center. Education: B.S., UNC-Greensboro. Career highlights: Former state senator 1995-99, Senate Caucus Leader, worked to enact state concealed weapons bill.

• Karen Albright, paralegal. Education: Paralegal certificates. Career highlights: Three years as chief judge for Guilford County Board of Elections. Leads marketing for N.C. Department of Agriculture’s Goodness Grows program.

By Sam A. Hieb

GREENSBORO — It’s a three-way race in the state House of Representatives District 59 Republican primary, with incumbent Rep. Jon Hardister squaring off against former state Sen. Mark McDaniel and newcomer Karen Albright.

Democrat Steve Buccini has no primary opponent.

The 59th District was caught up in North Carolina’s ongoing legal battle over the 2011 redistricting following the Republican takeover of the General Assembly in the 2010 election.

When Republicans redrew legislative districts last year in response to a lawsuit by voters, Hardister was “double-bunked” with fellow Republican John Faircloth in District 61.

In order to avoid a primary duel with Faircloth, Hardister moved to Whitsett in eastern Guilford County to be in District 59.  

In an email response, Hardister said he supported redistricting reform, but disagreed with court rulings that the 2011 districts were unconstitutional.

“I believe the 2011 maps were fair, and legal. The law was followed when the districts were configured, and the maps were cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, which was under the purview of President Obama,” Hardister wrote. “I respect the order from the federal court, but I disagree with the ruling.”

McDaniel, a retired business manager for Southeastern Eye Center, served in the state Senate from 1995-99. He wrote in an email “there will always be challenges regardless of the redistricting process.

“So-called ‘independent’ districting commissions are as full of bias as anyone else,” McDaniel said. “It is ludicrous to surmise that there is some grand panel, pure as the driven snow, completely void of partisanship, who would do any better. And the ‘judges’ hearing these cases are just as biased.”

He said when Democrats were in control they created districts so favorable to them they thought were electoral mountains Republicans could not climb.

“They were wrong,” and lost their legislative majority in 2010, McDaniel said.

Hardister said he was running again because he has a track record as an effective legislator and a problem solver.

Hardister is the House Majority Whip, and serves on the Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting. He supports judicial redistricting, especially in his home Guilford County. “It would be a much more balanced, streamlined approach to operating our district court system,” he said in a news release.

Hardister supports the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, saying it will create jobs, and help the U.S. achieve energy independence.

But he strongly disagreed with Gov. Roy Cooper’s direct negotiations with pipeline operators that established — without legislative input — a $57.8 million mitigation fund he said was for economic development, renewable energy projects, and repairing environmental damage.  

Critics questioned the ethics of the fund, claiming it was a government “pay to play” scheme. Some said it gave the appearance the Department of Environmental Quality’s permitting process has an unstated requirement companies must contribute funds in order to gain DEQ approval for a project.

“Only the legislature has the authority to raise and disburse funds,” Hardister said. The legislature redirected all funds towards public education to kill Cooper’s improper action, he said.

McDaniel said Cooper “clearly didn’t and doesn’t have the constitutional authority to do what he did alone, and the legislative response was reactive to the use of the funds.”

McDaniel’s biggest issue in the campaign is the legislature’s enactment of a sales tax on services including repairs and installations which he has described as a “misery tax.”

“That brand of toothpaste needs to be put back in the tube and discarded,” McDaniel wrote in an e-mail to CJ.

McDaniel said that legislative Republicans are “taking dead aim on a health care sales tax, which is not only wrong-headed, it would be the equivalent of a heart attack tax.”

Hardister pushed back In a Facebook post, writing in all capital letters, “LET’S SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT.”

“My opponent is telling people that I voted to raise taxes. This is a lie at worst, and a distortion at best,” Hardister wrote. “The sales tax was expanded into certain services, but the rates were not raised, and this was done in order to simplify the tax code, and lower the overall rates. The overall tax burden is down, and the tax code is simplified.”

Hardister called McDaniel’s claims about a health services tax “an outright lie,” and a “scare tactic.”

“I do not, and have never supported a tax on medical services,” he said.

Albright, a Greensboro-based paralegal, did not respond to a request for an interview. However, she told the Greensboro News & Record that the most pressing issues she would pursue if elected to the House would be “health care, and comfort for our aging citizens, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Services, Health Services, poverty, natural resources and protecting our wildlife.”

Albright questioned the need to appoint a special master to redraw election districts, as federal judges did when they hired Stanford University professor Nathaniel Persily in the court challenge to legislative districts. House District 57 in Guilford County was one of the districts Persily drew that was upheld in court.

Why would you want to bring in an independent commission from California under the Democratic push to change our district lines?” she asked.  

“[The] General Assembly is required to redraw these districts following each decennial census due to population changes, and the need to maintain equal representation,” she said.